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Ex-Cell's Panariello to retire

After working "just shy of" 30 years in the home textiles industry, John Panariello, vp of merchandising for the decorative pillow division of Ex-Cell Home Fashions, will retire on Dec. 31.

He told HTT that after many years of working in a career he really enjoyed, he is now ready to rest and spend time with his family. As part of shifting gears, Panariello, who spent his "entire life" living and working in the New York area, will be relocating to Sioux Falls, SD.

Panariello started his career in the home textiles industry in May 1972 when he accepted a position as a sales trainee with Sure Fit Products. He then went on to work for the custom drapery manufacturer Decorator Industries.

One of the "highlights" of his career came when he signed on at Park B. Smith. He spent six years there (1976 to 1982) working in several capacities, from sales representative covering the New York area to director of catalog sales.

The following eight years Panariello worked as vp of national accounts for Dakotah, manufacturer of bedding, decorative pillows, table linens and other home textiles categories.

It was there that he met his wife, LaFaye, who was operating Dakotah's outlet stores.

In 1990, Panariello joined forces with fellow industry veteran and longtime friend Neil Zuber, now president of Ashford Court, to create decorative pillow manufacturer Newport.

Five years later, the Layton Family bought Newport, and Panariello paired up with Zuber a second time to found Portofino Pillow, a division of Perfect Fit Industries.

Three years after that, in 1998, the business partners went at it for a third round, starting up Madison Landing, a division of Glenoit Corp. that manufactured upscale decorative pillow, based in Miami.

"I worked with John 25 years of my life," Zuber told HTT. "He's like my brother."

When Glenoit acquired Ex-Cell Home Fashions in 1999, Madison Landing became a division of Ex-Cell and was merged with Ex-Cell's decorative pillow division.

"I became vp of merchandising for decorative pillows for Ex-Cell. And that's where I am today," Panariello said.

He said he will look back fondly at his career and the friends he made along the way.

"I'll always cherish all the relationships I've made in this industry and all the friends I've made," Panariello said. "And in turn I hope it is my positive attitude that will be remembered by others."

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